NY Times Discovers Obama’s Favorite Utility

John Rowe photoAttentive NLPC readers were aware of the extent of Exelon Corporation’s activism to gain regulatory favor in support of “green” policies in which it reaped millions of dollars in government grants and mandates, but last week’s lengthy New York Times article about the cronyism-tainted relationship between the Chicago-based utility and the Obama administration revealed a few nuggets.

The story told how Exelon, with top executives as “early and frequent” supporters of the president as his political career ascended, were able to gain more access to the White House than others thanks to their longstanding relationships. According to one Exelon lobbyist, his employer was considered “the president’s utility.”

“White House records show that Exelon executives were able to secure an unusually large number of meetings with top administration officials at key moments in the consideration of environmental regulations that have been drafted in a way that hurt Exelon’s competitors, but … Read More ➡

Big Obama Donor ‘Investigated’ DOE Loan Program

Herbert Allison

When is a government watchdog not really a watchdog?

When he rolls over and lays at the feet of his master rather than sink his teeth into a program that he’s been tasked to guard.

Such appears to be the (unsurprising) case with Herbert Allison, Jr. (pictured), a former Wall Street executive (Merrill Lynch and TIAA-CREF) until he was appointed president and CEO of Fannie Mae in 2008, after it was put into conservatorship. Subsequently President Obama named (and the Senate confirmed) him as overseer of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the $700 billion asset acquisition fund that bailed out Wall Street financial institutions. He served in that role for about 15 months, until September 2010.

But it’s Allison’s role as a special investigator of the Department of Energy’s stimulus-funded loan program that is sparking curiosity, as explained in an Associated Press story published yesterday. Not long after … Read More ➡

NASDAQ Delisting Threat Jeopardizes Chinese Rescue of A123 Systems

A123 logoTwo weeks ago the mainstream and clean tech advocacy media proclaimed that taxpayer-subsidized, failing electric vehicle battery maker A123 Systems would be saved by a deal with a Chinese company.

Since then the Massachusetts-based manufacturer’s stock price sank below what had been its previous low of 44 cents. This morning it is down to 38 cents, and yesterday the company received a delisting notice from the NASDAQ. So what happened?

There could be several reasons why the recipient of hundreds of millions of U.S. stimulus dollars hasn’t impressed Wall Street with its pending bailout from Wanxiang Group. The deal is not binding, so obviously either party could back out.

One possible reason it may fail is that the U.S. and Chinese governments must approve it, which are uncertainties. China will probably embrace it, which will be discussed momentarily. But the fact that so much U.S. government money has been … Read More ➡

Fisker Recalls Karma; EV Maker Blasted by Rival Elon Musk

A123 logoThe electric vehicle fire in Woodside, Calif. about a week ago has led to the third recall in the short life of taxpayer-subsidized ($193 million in stimulus) Fisker Automotive and its plug-in hybrid model, the Karma.

The first two recalls were caused by problems with batteries produced by Fisker’s similarly troubled supplier and business partner, A123 Systems. The company said this time the fire was caused by a failure in a cooling fan, which caused overheating while the vehicle’s owner shopped for groceries inside a store. About 2,400 Karmas – 1,400 of which are in the possession of customers – will need to be recalled.

“We are committed to responding swiftly and decisively to events such as this to ensure total customer satisfaction,” said executive chairman Henrik Fisker. “This incident resulted from a single, faulty component, not our unique EVer powertrain or the engineering of the Karma. As … Read More ➡

DOE’s Derelict Judgment Makes Abound Solar a Tax Scofflaw

Abound logoBankrupt manufacturer Abound Solar, which is liquidating despite having received $70.9 million in taxpayer-backed loans from the Department of Energy, may leave government services in its former Weld County, Colo. home in trouble because of diminished property tax revenues.

The Greeley Tribune reported last week that Abound owes nearly $1 million for this year and by next year will have accumulated $1.8 million in county tax debt. As a result various school, public safety and other government services departments will have to look at budget cuts. The school district where Abound’s taxes went to, in St. Vrain Valley, will have to absorb more than a half-million dollars in lesser revenues because of the company’s failure.

Every county, city and community deals with property tax losses due to foreclosures and business closings, but the Abound Solar/Weld County example is one in which an unworthy company, that was the beneficiary of crony Read More ➡

New Fisker Fire, While Taxpayers Cover Utility Bills for Empty Plant

Fisker logoAnother government-funded electric vehicle has burned.

This time it’s the second fire in a Fisker Karma, which received $193 million out of a $529 million award from a Department of Energy loan guarantee before the cabinet agency cut the company off for failure to meet still-undisclosed milestones. This blaze (video), according to a report on the automotive Web site Jalopnik, occurred in a Woodside, Calif. parking lot while its owner was inside a store shopping for groceries.

In another development, the State of Delaware has been stuck paying more than $400,000 in utilities bills for a vacant factory that Fisker was supposed to occupy and use to manufacture its next electric car model, the Atlantic.

As for the fire, Fisker has acknowledged the incident. 

“We have more than 1,000 Karmas on the road with a cumulative 2 million miles on them,” the company said in a statement published … Read More ➡

Taxpayer-Funded A123 May Get a Chinese Bailout

A123 logoMonths ago, after they issued their most recent dismal quarterly earnings report, A123 Systems officials announced they would explore options in order to save the company, leaving the impression they were looking for a buyer. 

On Tuesday the heavily subsidized electric vehicle battery manufacturer released its latest financial bad news, but also disclosed that it also had a potential buyer – from China. According to media reports, just as A123 reported another $82.9 million in second-quarter losses, good news also magically materialized as Wanxiang Group Corp. was announced as a new investor. A123 had reported recently to the Securities and Exchange Commission that its ability to continue as a viable company was “a going concern.”

The good news/bad news announcements continue a trend by A123 in which every time the company has a negative media hit or stock downturn, a new press release comes out to give the … Read More ➡

Consumers Complain Nissan Leafs Lose Power in Hot Weather

Nissan LeafSo far American taxpayers have been forced – through stimulus loan guarantees from the Department of Energy – to “invest” $1.4 billion in a Japanese car company to build an unproven, impractical, expensive vehicle at a Tennessee power plant.

And now it can’t stand the heat.

Nissan has been dealing with complaints from owners of its Leaf electric car who reside in hot-weather states like Arizona, who say their vehicles have lost range capacity.

“When I first purchased the vehicle, I could drive to and from work on a single charge, approximately 90 miles round trip,” said one Phoenix-area Leaf owner to CBS television affiliate KPHO. Now, “I can drive approximately 44 miles on this without having to stop and charge.”

The usefulness of an electric car that costs at least twice the equivalent gas-powered vehicle, at a 90-mile range, that requires hours to fully recharge, is dubious … Read More ➡

Former Temp CEO Rebuts Allegations of Duke Energy’s Jim Rogers

Bill Johnson photoAs the North Carolina Utilities Commission tries to make sense of the farcical events that surround its approval of the merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy into the largest public electricity company in the nation, the deeper they dig, the dumber Duke looks.

Yesterday the 6-member panel (one seat is unfilled due to political wrangling) heard from former Progress CEO Bill Johnson (pictured). Throughout the 18-month merger process the two companies proclaimed to anyone who cared – including federal regulators, utilities commissions in at least six states, and Wall Street – that Johnson would carry that role over to the combined company, while former Duke CEO James Rogers would elevate to chairman.

Instead, according to Johnson’s testimony, within two hours after directors from both companies offered “handshakes, pats on the back, congratulations all around,” he was jettisoned and replaced by Rogers. The hearings were covered by most of … Read More ➡

Taxpayer-Backed Yet Cash-Poor A123 Stock Hits All-Time Low

A123 logoA week and a half ago cash-poor A123 Systems, recipient of $279 million-plus in federal money and millions more from the State of Michigan, announced it would access $39 million via a stock sale to institutional investors and the release of other cash after meeting requirements related to its existing reserves.

It has been downhill ever since – all the way down to its all-time low of 75 cents per share price Tuesday (and 69 cents Thursday morning). It may be too much for even these masters of the press release cycle to overcome by creating good news out of thin air.

A123 is in the throes of a deathwatch. Occasionally its leadership has goosed its stock price by telling the media about real-or-phantom positive developments – like new contracts with automakers, new developments in China and India, or a technological breakthrough – but every time the … Read More ➡

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